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Multiple Sclerosis Health Center

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10 Questions About Multiple Sclerosis

WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Neil Lava, MD

1. What kind of multiple sclerosis do I have?

There are four types:

  • Relapsing-remitting. This is the most common form. You have flare-ups followed by periods without symptoms, called recovery.
  • Primary-progressive. With this type, you do not get the ups and downs. Your symptoms get worse over time.
  • Secondary-progressive. You get flares and recovery periods at the start, then symptoms steadily worsen.
  • Progressive-relapsing. This form is very rare. Symptoms worsen from the start. You experience flares and recovery, but symptoms continue to worsen over time.

Recommended Related to Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis: Advances in Research and Treatment

While the cause of multiple sclerosis (MS) is still not known, advances in treatment options and new understanding about the disease have been especially brisk in the past few years, researchers say. As a result, the future for the 400,000 Americans with the chronic, sometimes disabling disease may soon be brighter. In MS, the body turns on itself, attacking myelin, the fatty substance protecting nerve fibers in the central nervous system. That leads to damaged nerve fibers (axons), which hinders...

Read the Multiple Sclerosis: Advances in Research and Treatment article > >

2. Could anything else be causing my symptoms?

Most MS symptoms can also be caused by other conditions like Lyme disease, genetic disorders, and infections. They can also be brought on by a lack of vitamin B12. Because there's no one test for MS, your doctor needs to rule out other possible causes for your symptoms before giving you an MS diagnosis.

3. Will I have new symptoms? Will they get worse over time?

MS symptoms can range from numbness and tiredness to pain and problems walking. Every person has different symptoms, and they can change over time. Fortunately, most symptoms can be managed with medicine, rehab, and other treatment.

4. What can I do at home to manage my symptoms?

Dealing with stress -- through yoga or other relaxation exercises -- may help ease your symptoms. If heat makes your symptoms worse, find ways to keep cool:

  • Use an air conditioner or fan in your house or car.
  • Open a window or use a fan when showering, and don't use very warm water.
  • Keep a spray bottle handy to mist yourself.
  • Drink chilled water or juices, and avoid caffeine.

5. What drugs and other treatments do you recommend for me?

There are many drugs that help stop your MS from getting worse, treat flare-ups when they happen, and ease your symptoms. Different types of rehab, like physical therapy, can help you at home and work. Rehab will let you focus on any problems you have getting around, or issues with speech, swallowing, or memory.

6. How will I know if the drugs are working?

Sometimes the side effects from a drug make you feel like the drugs aren't working -- or that they make you feel worse. That's why it's important to keep talking to your doctor. Together, you can figure out if the drugs are working or if you need to try a new one. Never stop taking medicine without talking to your doctor first.

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